It's a wonder that the developers at Infinity Ward haven't gone deaf from working on the Call of Duty franchise. Every time we think it can't get any more intense, more chaotic, or louder, the company keeps redefining what "11" means. Case in point is Call of Duty 2, a game that's getting a lot of attention because it's the sequel to the best-selling, critically adored game. However, it's also going to be an Xbox 360 launch title, and you can see it running at Microsoft's booth on the next-generation console. There's a big line to see Activision's Call of Duty 2 demo, but we were luckily whisked inside to see one of the first presentations of the day.
Content in letting the game speak for itself, Infinity Ward started up the demo, and we were immediately placed on a Higgins boat stuffed with soldiers en route to Pointe du Hoc, a strategically vital cliff in Normandy. The day is June 6, 1944, D-Day, and you're a member of the 2nd Ranger Battalion tasked with one of the most audacious missions on that momentous day. The rangers must scale a 100-foot-tall rock cliff, which is under fire, to neutralize German heavy artillery that could wreak havoc on the beach landings below.
The demo plays out exactly like the motion picture Saving Private Ryan, not to mention the Normandy level in the game Medal of Honor Allied Assault. However, Call of Duty 2 looks a lot more like the former than the latter. It's not photo-realistic, but it's just incredibly sharp and detailed. There was an audible "wow" from the audience when the game started. The American soldiers are rendered in lifelike detail, and cloth looks like cloth, metal objects have a realistic sheen to them, and there's such a sense of immersion, thanks to the 5.1 surround-sound system.
As soon as the Higgins boat approaches the beach, canons are fired, propelling grappling hooks attached to ropes to the cliff top. The rangers then charge off the boats into a brutal fusillade of enemy fire and artillery. After many dramatic moments, the main character managed to get to one of the ropes and began the arduous climb up, dodging falling bodies on the way. Once on top, we saw a huge battle sequence as American soldiers cleared out the bunkers and trenches the Germans had built. (Ironically, this dangerous mission was all for naught, as the Germans had moved the heavy guns inland.) This showed off the engine's ability to render some intense indoor moments, along with huge outdoor moments, without having to revert to loads. The lighting inside the bunker was excellent, as you can only see silhouettes of the Germans firing at you, and dust and smoke filled the concrete hallways.
But wait! There's more. This was a gigantic level, and as soon as the Americans cleared out the German bunker system, they then moved over to the nearby French village and began clearing out the houses of German soldiers. This resulted in a lot of room-to-room action as the GIs tossed grenades to clear out nodes of resistance. But the mission kept going, as the battle shifted to a nearby field, subdivided by small stone walls. This resulted in intense firefights against German infantry. Finally, the Americans cleared the Germans from the field, and the mission ended about 10 to 15 minutes after it started. The entire experience was nonstop and seamless..and very impressive.
The graphics are, as expected, incredible. Take Call of Duty, and add in all the graphical effects that were seen in games such as Half-Life 2. And then multiply the sheer amount of chaos onscreen by a factor of two or three, and that's what you're dealing with in Call of Duty 2. The game also sounds incredible, and you walk out of the demo with the ripping-cloth sound of the German MG42 machine gun tattooed on your eardrums. Call of Duty 2 looks like it will uphold the intense, cinematic World War II action of the series, and we can expect it to ship for the PC and Xbox 360 this fall.